Coming off another frustrating defeat at the hands of the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night, the Lakers return home to face the upstart Golden State Warriors. The Lakers were coming off their first win of the season against the Detroit Pistons, but positives from that game can essentially be dismissed due to the fact that the Pistons are winless at 0-5. Unbelievably, the Lakers sit at the bottom of the Western Conference standings right now, though of course we are only five games into the season. Coach Mike Brown continues to get next to nothing from the bench, other than energy and rebounding production from Jordan Hill. Whether this is a case of Brown not giving the reserves a chance or them not performing well is a valid question to ask, but either way the Laker bench must step up. Additionally, Brown should see that Metta World Peace is not the answer as the backup shooting guard and give free agent acquisition and three-point specialist Jodie Meeks more of a shot considering the Lakers shot 4-23 from three point range against the Jazz.
The Warriors enter the game at 3-2 and on a two game win streak with victories over the Los Angeles Clippers and Cleveland Cavaliers. The team has an extremely bright future and had one of the more impressive off-seasons in the NBA. The Warriors have been to the playoffs only twice in the last 19 seasons (most recently the 2006-2007 season), but they are definitely a threat to be a playoff team this season.
Let’s see how the Lakers match up with them:
Frontcourt: David Lee is one of the more underrated power forwards in the NBA. With averages of 20.1 points per game and 9.6 rebounds per game last season, Lee is a double-double threat each time he steps on the court. Lee is entering his prime in his eighth NBA season and is a key part of the Warriors present and future. How Pau Gasol matches up with Lee will be a key to a Laker victory. He will need to make Lee work on defense, which is not one of Lee’s strong suits, and keep him off the offensive boards.
Last season, the Warriors acquired center Andrew Bogut from the Milwaukee Bucks. Bogut is a former #1 overall draft pick (class of 2005) who has had some struggles with injuries of late. Bogut only played in 12 games all of last season. Currently, he is on a 20-minute limit restriction and is sitting out the second night of back to backs. When healthy, Bogut will act as a defensive anchor (career 1.6 blocks per game) for a Warrior team that has been very subpar on that side of the ball the last several seasons as well as a scoring threat in the low post (12.7 career points per game). When Bogut is not in the game, Dwight Howard should draw a double team every time he touches the ball.
Backcourt: Along with Bogut, point guard Stephen Curry is the key to the Warriors future. Fresh off a 4 year, $44 million dollar extension, Curry is one of the deadliest shooters in the league. While he is a defensive liability with his thin frame, Curry is an outstanding ball handler, distributor, and shooter at the point guard position. He has struggled with his shot a little in the early going this season, but that is likely due to him getting his rhythm back after missing most of last season with ankle injuries. Once again, this will be a tough matchup for Steve Blake.
Klay Thompson, son of Lakers radio broadcaster Mychal Thompson, starts at shooting guard for the Warriors. In his second season, Thompson is an excellent outside shooter (41% from deep last season) who continues to evolve as an overall scorer. Thompson has the length to guard Kobe Bryant, but look for Kobe to use his strength on the low block against Thompson and establish himself early in the game. Kobe has played the role of facilitator the last two games in the early going, but coming off the loss against Utah Kobe is likely to come out firing.
Keys to Victory:
Limit Warriors to Less than 10 Threes- With all the talk of the Lakers’ struggles with the offense, their defense has been far more disappointing. The arrival of Dwight Howard was supposed to instantly make the Lakers an effective defensive unit, but this has not been the case. With shooters capable of getting hot from three in Curry, Thompson, and rookie Harrison Barnes, the Lakers must guard the three-point line effectively. This starts by containing dribble penetration, which Blake and Darius Morris must do a better job of in this matchup.
At Least 30 Points from the Bench- In the loss to the Jazz, the Laker bench contributed an insufficient 12 points combined. While it seems as if the players are having a hard time getting a rhythm due to Mike Brown’s inconsistent substitutions, the bench players have to find a way to contribute. Antawn Jamison must find a way to score within the offense as well. It seemed a given before the season that Jamison, a career 19.5 point per game scorer, would find a way to produce off the bench. This has been far from the case so far, as he has averaged only 4.3 points per game. The Lakers are likely to lose another one if their bench doesn’t contribute.
Golden State Warriors (3-2) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (1-4)
7:30 PM PST, November 9, 2012 Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
CA TV: TWCSN
Warriors Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Stephen Curry SG: Klay Thompson SF: Harrison Barnes PF: David Lee C: Andrew Bogut
Key Reserves: F Carl Landry, F Richard Jefferson, G Jarrett Jack